Director: Remi Chaye; Animation; France/Denmark 2015, 81 min.
In this animated big screen debut Remi Chaye incorporates elements of Mulan in a 19th century snowbound adventure that follows teenage Russian aristrocrat Sasha to the North Pole in a bid to reclaim the family honour and find the ship of her grandfather Oloukine, an intrepid explorer.
This delicatately rendered 2D animation opens in St. Petersburg where Sasha is mourning the loss of her grandfather Oloukine who was lost after setting out with his ship Daiva to find a passage to the North Pole. Her father, Count Chernetsov, is only interested in his diplomatic career, hoping to become the Russian ambassador in Rome. But the new scientific adviser to the Tsar, Prince Vladimir Tomsky, the nephew of the Imperial ruler, tries to discredit Oloukine and his mission. At a ball, Sasha challenges the Prince, who calls her grandfather a megalomaniac. Tomsky is only too happy to be insulted, and leaves in a huff: Chetnetsov can say goodbye to his post in Rome.
Sasha flees her home and sets out to find the Daiva, a supposedly unsinkable vessel that cost the State a fortune. She has to work for months in restaurant near the Arctic circle before she finds a ship which takes her near the Pole, where the frozen corpse of Oloukine is discovered. After a gruelling mission in the icy wasteland hampered by a fierce bear, the exhausted crew finally track down the Daiva and sail back to St. Petersburg, where Sasha’s parents, all forgiving, await her.
LONG WAY NORTH seems to be two films rolled into one. The action only gets going halfway through, when Sasha climbs on board to start her journey to the Pole after a lengthy and didactic preamble explores the changes Sasha goes through in her quest to raise money to finance her trip. The hand-coloured images are highly original using a bleached out pastel palette. Young audiences might have difficulty sitting through the adult-orientated narrative of the first half in St. Petersburg. Still, when Sasha finally makes it to the world of mountainous icebergs and growling polar bears, their attention will be rewarded. AS
OUT ON 17 JUNE 2017